I found this pretty interesting myself because I didn't really ever look at cardio like this for some reason. After reading the #3 point I'm thinking to myself "well duh!" but for some reason I never thought about it like this:
Ah-ha! #3: Cardiovascular programming is an ass-backward concept.
I don't know when I first thought this, but it was confirmed to me when viewing Lance Armstrong's performance in the New York Marathon.
Throughout my college education, countless training certification programs and seminars, I'd been taught the same thing: that cardiovascular exercise was necessary to improve the cardiovascular system and subsequently aerobic performance. But there seemed to be an inherent flaw in that argument.
Let's say I tested your aerobic fitness through a treadmill test.
Then let's say that for the next sixteen weeks, we developed a five-day per week aerobic training program that involved you running at various heart rates and for various lengths of times. The program would progressively increase in difficulty and duration, and the end result was a very significant improvement in your aerobic fitness.
At the end of this sixteen-week period, how much do you expect your swimming times to have improved? Marginally, if at all, right? It seems almost stupid to ask. But wait a second. If you have one cardiovascular system, why doesn't your cardiovascular system improve across the board regardless of the activity?
More to the point, why didn't Lance Armstrong, with perhaps the highest recorded VO2 max in history, win the New York Marathon? Or beat people with lesser aerobic levels than himself?
The seven-time winner of the Tour de France, the greatest endurance cyclist, quite possibly the greatest endurance athlete in the world, finished the Marathon in 868th place, and described the event as the "hardest physical thing" he'd ever done.
"I'd rather be cycling."
The flaw in this thinking was looking solely at VO2 max: the "engine," as it were. It's fair to say that Lance had a "Formula One" engine, but his wheels and chassis were built for a different kind of race. In other words, he just didn't have the structural development for running.
Lance was a cyclist: his body had adapted to the demands of cycling, but not to the specific demands of running. In fact, the longest distance he'd ever run prior to the Marathon was 16 miles. Lance had developed strength, postural endurance, and flexibility in the correct "cycling muscles," but it didn't transfer to running the way his VO2 max did.
The muscles don't move because of cardiovascular demand. It's the reverse. The cardio system is elevated because of muscular demand. We need to program the body based on the movements it's going to perform, not based on the cardiovascular system.
Basically, if that muscular system can't handle the stress of performing thousands of repetitions (which is what you're doing, after all, when running or cycling), then we have to condition that muscular system first. And by doing so, we automatically improve cardiovascular conditioning.
The only reason there's any demand on the cardiovascular system is because the muscular system places that demand: the muscles require oxygen in order to continue to work. In fact, cardiovascular exercise is impossible without moving the muscle first.
I've seen this across various sports. The cardio conditioning required to run a 10K won't transfer to motocross or jujitsu.
Conclusion: If cardio training doesn't transfer well from one activity to another, and it only 'kicks' in because of muscular demand, we should program muscular activity first in order to create a cardiovascular response.